Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Next Challenge

My first sprint triathlon last summer included a 350 yard swim, a 14 mile bike, a 5K (3.1 mile) run, and approximately 150 participants.  Since that first race, I have completed two additional sprint distance races, one with only three participants and the other with around 400.  This Father's Day--17 days from today--I will up the ante by attempting my first international distance race: the Washington DC Triathlon, which will feature over 3,000 participants from around the world!

Unlike sprint triathlons, for which the distances of the three legs vary from race to race, international triathlons (also known as "Olympic" triathlons) are standardized.  Each race consists of a 1.5K swim, a 40K bike, and a 10K run.  To us Americans, that's a 0.93 mile swim, a 24.8 mile bike, and a 6.2 mile run.  Obviously, those distances are much greater than in my previous races!

By far, the leg of the race that will challenge me most is the swim.  The distance is nearly five times longer than the swim in my first race.  It's also in open water and begins with a wave start, which is vastly different from a pool swim with timed starts.  However, as I proudly proclaimed in my most recent weekly report, after lots of training and with a little Biblical inspiration, I recently reached the point where I can swim a mile in open water with virtually no rest.  But there is one major caveat.

My wetsuit
I am wetsuit dependent.  Absent the extra buoyancy provided by a wetsuit, I am not currently capable of swimming more than a few hundred yards without resting.  That is why, after my Easter Sunday open water debacle, I purchased my first wetsuit, a Vortex 3 from Xterra.  That is also why I have been obsessively checking the U.S. Geological Survey's Little Falls gauge, which gives real-time temperature readings for the Potomac River (the site of the Washington DC Triathlon's swim leg).  USA Triathlon, the governing body for triathlons in the United States, disallows the use of wetsuits if the water temperature is 84°F or higher at race time.  As of this writing, the Potomac is at 78.4°F, which is about five degrees above average.  Pray for lower temperatures and rain in the DC area over the next couple of weeks, and in the meantime I'll keep hitting the pool!

Assuming I complete the swim, the bike and run courses will offer quite a unique experience.  I will ride and run on completely closed streets through and around the National Mall, George Washington University, Rock Creek Park, and Capitol Hill.  I will pass by numerous landmarks including the Washington Monument, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Capitol.  Indeed, I will finish the race with the Capitol dome right behind me!  Below is a composite map of the courses.

As of today, my goal for this race (other than to complete the swim) is to finish in 3:20:00 or less.  My challenge goal, which would require me to exceed my personal best times in all three legs, is to finish in 3:00:00 or less.  Let the countdown to June 19 begin!

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